AbstractLaser beam butt welds in Al-alloys are very narrow and are accompanied by steep residual stress gradients. In such a case, how the initial crack orientation and the distance of the notch tip relative to the weld affect fatigue crack propagation has not been investigated. Therefore, this investigation was undertaken with two different crack orientations: along the mid-weld and perpendicular to the weld. Fatigue crack propagation ‘along the mid-weld’ was found to be faster in middle crack tension specimens than in compact tension specimens. For the crack orientation ‘perpendicular to the weld’, the relative distance between the notch tip and the weld was varied using compact tension specimens to generate either tensile or compressive residual stresses near the notch tip. When tensile residual stresses were generated near the notch tip, fatigue crack propagation was found to be faster than that in the base material, irrespective of the difference in the initial residual stress level and whether the crack propagated along the mid-weld or perpendicular to the weld. In contrast, when compressive weld residual stresses were generated near the notch tip, fatigue crack arrest, slow crack propagation, multiple crack branching and out of plane deviation occurred. The results are discussed by considering the superposition principle and possible practical implications are mentioned.